CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX
Retirement Ruined
1910-11

The president of the United States may or may not have read Roosevelt's ode to struggle; Will Taft was a busy man in the spring of 1910, with much on his calendar and more on his mind. But if he did read it, he surely groaned, for he could have sensed that Roosevelt's incessant need to be fighting something would soon afflict his administration and his equanimity.

The rift that developed between Roosevelt and Taft was a political fiasco. It revealed, among other things, how little lasting imprint Roosevelt had left on his party and how tenuous were his triumphs as president. In taking on Taft, Roosevelt rode to the rescue--he hoped--of his own legacy.

Yet the split between these two friends was more than a political fiasco; it was a personal tragedy. Even as it fractured the Republican Party, it revealed the corrosive egotism intrinsic--if often latent--in Roosevelt's romantic conception of life. It broke Taft's heart; it would have broken Roosevelt's if he hadn't long ago placed his heart out of reach of such things.


II

The first slight was barely perceptible--except to Roosevelt. On election night in November 1908, even as the returns were tallying his victory, Taft wrote Roosevelt an effusive letter conveying his "deep

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